How to Fall Fest: The 2021 Comeback Edition

It’s back: the festival we all love (and some joyless souls love to hate). After being canceled because of COVID-19 in 2020, Sister Bay will celebrate the 75th Fall Festival Oct. 15-17. 

At least we think it’s number 75. Opinions differ on which year constituted the first one, but somebody had to make the call, and Louise Howson at the Sister Bay Advancement Association said this is it. That’s good enough for me.

Some long-lost events such as the derby races are back, and so is the Ferris wheel, plus tons of live music and all the staples that make Fall Fest a Homecoming for adults without the pressure of finding a date or buying a corsage. 

More Fall Fest Info
How to Fall Fest: The 2021 Comeback Edition
Fall Fest Derby Races Return
Live Music Preview

It’s best to start by getting your key times in place. You’ll probably hear people ask for these times about 7,000 times this week, so study up and be the one with the answers.

Here are some key days and times to know:

• Parade: Saturday, 11 am, starting at the HuzBowl corner

• Badger game: There isn’t one

• Ferris wheel rides: Friday and Saturday, 1-5 pm

• Kids’ games: Saturday and Sunday, 9 am – 4 pm, near the village hall

• Arts-and-crafts fair: Friday and Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm; Sunday, 10 am – 3 pm

• Soapbox derby race: Sunday, 10 am, on the hill

• Packers at Bears: Sunday, 12 pm

• Ping-pong-ball drop: Sunday, 2 pm

• Special surprise event: Sunday, 6:30 pm

“That’s great, thanks!” you say. “That gives me all the information I … Wait – what’s the surprise event Sunday?!”

Door County Pulse Podcasts · An Ode to Fall Fest with Louise Howson and Myles Dannhausen

Find out for yourselves. I can’t do all your work. 

During the early years of the festival, teachers at the Sister Bay school let students out at noon on Friday to get the first crack at the carnival rides and festival fun before the crowds arrived. Our school may not be as cool anymore, but Friday is still a great time for adults to get a taste of the fest before the crowds arrive. 

On Saturday, give yourself time to park and walk, or catch a shuttle downtown before the parade starts at 11 am. If your kids want to hit the bungee jumps and bounce houses, you can start even earlier, at 9 am. 

The Packers have traditionally had a big impact on Fall Fest Sundays. If they play at noon at Lambeau, the game tends to clear out the crowd early. Fortunately, the Pack is on the road this year at Lambeau South, that little stadium on the lake in Chicago. Game time is 12 pm, and there are sure to be plenty of TVs under the tents and in the bars of Sister Bay. 

The ping-pong-ball drop takes place at 2 pm Sunday, and Sunday night is the time to head down to JJ’s La Puerta if you have anything left in you. 

6 Tips for a Great Fall Fest

1. Skip breakfast. The street is filled with stomach-busting eats, from gravy burgers, to pumpkin pie in a cup, to brats and cookies. You won’t miss breakfast.

2. Be kind. After a long season with less staff, the people behind the bars, in the kitchens, at the front desks and volunteering in the booths of Sister Bay get the “reward” of the busiest weekend yet. Be nice, smile, forgive mistakes and tip well.  

3. Don’t fear Mother Nature. As of Monday, the weather looks good, but even if things change, Sister Bay businesses have become experts at weatherproofing the weekend, with massive tents at Husby’s and Stabbur, and plenty of smaller tented areas throughout the village.

4. Check the Fall Fest map in advance to find your way through the crowds to locate the events, food and live music.

5. Take the kids! Fall Fest organizers have added more games, activities and even a ping-pong-ball drop in the center of town to give families more to enjoy. 

6. Be smart, be safe, take a shuttle. Or hire a driver, have a designated driver, get an Uber or Lyft, or walk! Whatever you do this weekend, do it safely. The Sister Bay Advancement Association will be running shuttles all weekend (see this week’s insert for schedules and maps), and the Baileys Harbor Community Association is also running a shuttle to get revelers to and from Baileys Harbor. Uber and Lyft do have a couple of drivers in the area, so if you don’t mind a little wait, you can catch a cab. Don’t risk your life or the lives of others by making a stupid decision this weekend.

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